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Intermittent Fasting For Women ‒ Benefits & Risks

Written by: Chelsea Haines, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Intermittent fasting has taken the world (and the diet industry) by storm. But what exactly is intermittent fasting, and are there any risks involved? How much do we know about intermittent fasting and women?

Let’s dive in together and find out:


What is Intermittent Fasting


Intermittent fasting (IF), or Time Restricted eating (TRE): is restricting the time you eat and alternating it with times that you don't eat anything at all. Numbers like 16:8 are indications of the hours of fasting (16 hours) and the hours of eating (8 hours).


While there are many different ideas on the best intermittent fasting practices. Most agree that fasting is consuming nothing with calories in it. Water, tea, and sneakily black coffee tend to fit the bill on most fasting websites as "safe."


Lack of research on intermittent fasting in women:


It's not uncommon for women to be underrepresented in research studies. This has led to a lack of understanding of how certain interventions, like intermittent fasting, may impact women’s health specifically.


It is always recommended that you make these changes with help from a professional. Or at least consult one before making any lifestyle changes.


Benefits of intermittent fasting


Weight Loss


Intermittent fasting can help women lose weight. This, like most weight loss approaches ‒ is through calorie restriction. Studies done on women have shown that intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight and that women may benefit from allowing their gut to “rest and digest.” The most important part of any lifestyle shift is how it works for you and whether it is sustainable for your busy life. So please keep that in mind if you’re considering trying this out.


Improved Insulin Sensitivity


Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Reduced Inflammation


Some research has shown that intermittent fasting may help reduce inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. This is another exciting possibility for most women, as inflammation is the largest cause of most dis-ease within our bodies. Again this is an aspect that needs to be assessed and approved by a health professional as if the body is already in a stressed state. Intermittent Fasting could add fire to the flame ‒ making inflammation worse.


Potential Dangers of intermittent fasting


Hormonal Imbalances


Intermittent fasting can cause hormonal imbalances in some women, especially those who are premenopausal or have a history of hormonal imbalances. Estrogen dominance in the body can result from dysbiosis in the gut microbiome and can lead to a cascade of further issues down the line. Fasting can cause a drop in estrogen levels. Estrogen is our female-dominated hormone and, when balanced correctly, helps us have regular periods and become pregnant. So it’s unsurprising that in some women fasting can cause irregular periods or even amenorrhea (absence of periods). Which can, as a result, affect your fertility.


Nutrient Deficiencies


Intermittent fasting means you have less time and, thus, fewer meals to get your nutrients in. This means you risk developing many nutritional deficiencies if your nutrition during your "eating window" is poorly balanced. This, of course, is not as much of a concern when working with a professional. But due to the general lack of nutritional information taught in schools, universities, and even to doctors, it is an unsurprising and very common risk.


Pregnant and/or breastfeeding?


It is not recommended to fast at all if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is the most important time for your baby to get all the essential nutrients it needs to grow healthy and strong. Restriction should be replaced with a rainbow of wholesome foods at every meal.


Disordered Eating


Intermittent fasting can trigger disordered eating behaviors in some women, particularly those with a history of disordered eating. Fasting can cause feelings of deprivation and lead to binge eating during eating windows.


Other Potential Dangers


Studies have highlighted symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and headaches in some women trying out regular intermittent fasting. Highlighting these serves as a chance to be aware that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be a good idea to skip fasting for a week and note the changes.


Conclusion


The overarching conclusion is that more research is needed to be sure. If you want to try intermittent fasting, my suggestion is to do it with a professional at hand. If you'd like me or my team to hold your hand, we're excited to hold yours back. Please never undermine the power of paying attention to your own body.


Now that you know some of the benefits and potential dangers of Intermittent Fasting, I will trust that you'll reach out if you need help and that you can make the best decision for yourself and your body on this next stage of your journey.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Chelsea Haines, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Recently featured "The Gut Health Coach" by Yahoo!, Chelsea Haines has a unique way of helping high-performers heal. She doesn't claim to know best. Her mission: to remind you that YOU are the expert on your body, only you know precisely what you need, and you are not "crazy" for feeling how you feel. Her expertise stems from personally healing autoimmune disease paired with formal degrees in psychology, gut health, and mindfulness. She’s the Founder of The Gut Health Agency, where a team of health coaches & Registered Dietitians merge health coaching with clinical testing for increased patient compliance and lasting habit change ‒ a needle-moving combination not otherwise seen in the gut health space.

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